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Ethiopia: Investigations into high level corruption continues

Melaku Fenta

ESAT News (February 15, 2017)

Prosecutors have begun the process of extradition of seven army officers and businessmen who hid in Dubai after allegedly taking bank loans amounting to over 5 million dollars in the name of agricultural development in Benishangul Gumuz region of western Ethiopia.

According to ESAT’s sources, the seven suspects, who are also called “the seven stars,” have taken thousands of hectares of land in the name of agricultural development in Benishangul Gumuz and took the said loan from the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE). The accused then put the money on real estate development and for the purchase of land in the capital Addis Ababa.

The seven fugitives are Salle Egziabher Berhe, Hailu Nega, Major Aymero Gebrekirstos, major kidu Ta’em, commander Mulu Huluf, Commander Tirhas Gebreyohannes and General Yohannes Alemseged.

The prosecutors called as witness former head of customs and director of DBE, Melaku Fenta, who is serving prison time convicted of corruption charges. Melaku has reportedly said he would not testify against people who are outside the country but would cooperate on ongoing investigations on suspects who are still in the country.

Prosecutors have also called to the witness stand former board members of customs and presidents and executives of DBE including Esayas Bahire, who resigned last year from the post of president of DBE after the loan scandal came to light.

In a similar development, prosecutors based on investigations and evidences presented by the intelligence bureau, allege that about 16 million dollars has been embezzled from government institutions and funds administered by the DBE. The funds were approved by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Sources say high ranking military officers and members of the inner circle of TPLF are implicated in the embezzlement and hence the case could have political ramifications. The military could feel it is being targeted, according to the sources.

Ethiopia’s crackdown on corruption has so far been toothless and has so far targeted low level and petty scoundrels and this could be the first time a large number of people close to the regime were implicated in a high level corruption.

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